HOUSTON — DJ LeMahieu was universally considered the Yankees’ MVP this season. But he didn’t have any bigger at-bats in his first season with the club than the one he had in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night.
With the Yankees trailing 4-2 and two outs away from their season ending, LeMahieu battled Astros closer Roberto Osuna in an epic 10-pitch at-bat.
The at-bat ended with LeMahieu hitting a game-tying two-run homer to Minute Maid Park’s short rightfield porch, just over the leaping try of Houston’s George Springer.
The Yankees’ jubilation didn’t last long, however. The Astros took the game, 6-4, and the series on Jose Altuve’s two-out, two-run home run off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth.
“I thought there was a [chance to win] all game before we hit the homer,” LeMahieu said. “I thought it was going to be our night. I thought we battled extremely hard. But came up short. We set out to win the whole thing, and to come up short is not a good feeling. At the same time, in a lot of ways, it’s been a very successful year, a very positive year. But just not the ending we wanted.”
If the Yankees had won Game 6 and forced a Game 7 on Sunday night, LeMahieu’s home run could have been right up there with the top ones in pinstripe postseason lore.
Instead, it will have to pass into posterity as a great moment in a great season for LeMahieu, the quiet infielder with the loud bat.
“Kind of embodies his season, that at-bat,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So good. Off their closer, obviously. Just a really good battle and spoiled pitches, spoiled pitches, finally got one he could handle and ride out of there. As that at-bat's going on, just felt so good about him doing something. Knew he was going to put it in play hard somewhere, and sure enough, he did. What more can you say about the season he's had?”
You could say LeMahieu’s under-the-radar two-year, $24 million free-agent signing was one of the best moves the Yankees made last offseason. You could say LeMahieu quickly became a fan and clubhouse favorite with his clutch hitting and versatility.
“Obviously, DJ getting us back in the game in that big spot in the ninth, he’s done that I think for us all year,” Brett Gardner said. “He’s maybe the biggest reason we played as deep into October as we did.”